Skins DEFENSE vs Minnesota

Formations

We played a lot of two-high safety when Hall was in the game then switched to mostly one-high after he got replaced by Everett.  Last week I thought the 2-high switch was to keep our safeties from getting hurt but it’s probably due to DHall’s lack of range.

When we went with one-high safety, Minnesota attacked our flat zones with Arrow/Slant route combos:

and Outside Zone Play Action:

This is what most teams do to us:  Flat zones are an area we give up so we can protect deep while adding a safety against the run.  It’s a trade off that hurt us in Seattle but didn’t kill us in this game.

The only trickery of note was their empty set which drew Norman into covering a running back and left Brown and Hall to bracket Thielen:

Brown is still trying to figure out his assignment at the snap and Hall takes a bad angle:

We used a couple of exotic formations on third downs, but otherwise nothing of note, just 3-4 and Nickel the whole way.

What Happened

First Half:

They ran Power:

The “Power” run is basically a double team plus an extra blocker (puller) to the play side.

Initially, our plan to stop the run was the same as last week:

  • slant the line
  • Let Compton absorb blocks
  • Get Brown one on one with the RB

Here is a Power run where Compton (circled) takes on two blockers at the line and allows Brown a one on one with the RB:

Brown overplays his gap and the RB is able to cut it up field behind him.  That’s really frustrating because you have an entire front running assignments just so you can make a play.  Make a play.

We adjusted by shifting guys over to defend the play side:

They answered by running inside zone into the gap created by our shift:

We had other shifts we used against their Power game but that was the basic gist for the first half; the foundation for the run game was Power and they ran it at 8 yards per carry to soften our line and open up other runs.

In the passing game they went Max Protect and caught Norman off guard with an ‘out and up’ route for 51 yards:

Norman played it as a Post route, not expecting someone to test him outside man to man.

Later in the half, from the exact same formation, they ran the same route combo except this time they break off the crosser into a corner route (red) which fooled Breeland:

Both plays back to back:

That’s two plays on separate drives for a total of 89 yards en route to 14 points.  Neither play required Play Action, that was just our Corners anticipating incorrectly and getting beat because of it.

So, to recap:

  • Power running
  • Two Max Protect plays
  • Add in a Cousins interception which put them on our 25 yard line.

Put it all together and you get a defense ceding 28 points.

2nd Half:

In the second half we limited them to a touchdown and a field goal.  The main culprit on the touchdown drive was Everett falling asleep at the wheel on this 49 yard improv play:

I’m not aware of any call that asks a safety to play “robber” while the other safety is in Cover 2.  Norman is playing quarters, which would mean that’s what Everett was supposed to be doing as well.  Regardless of the call, he can’t lose track of the WR like that.

[EDIT:  thehbrwhammer on the Reddit board:  It’s a “cut” call. Cooley explained it on his show and basically you cut the in-route since it’s designed to attack this coverage. Norman has to replace his zone for it to work and he didn’t.

I still want to see him track the WR, but that does remove a few minuses from Everett’s score]

The remaining three points were a result of 267 pound rookie defensive end in Brandon Banks coming in to give the other guys at the line a breather.  Brown tried to mitigate the damage by firing into the gaps on either side of Banks but Minnesota was able to dent holes big enough to keep the chains moving with runs that eventually put them in field goal range.

With Nicholson and Ioannidis in the line up, chances are we would have shut out this offense in the second half.

CHART

The Show

Defensive Line
Player + Total
McGee 4 3 1
McClain 0.5 3.5 -3: got blown off the line a few times
Hood 4 2 2
Lanier 1.5 1 0.5
Banks 0 1.5 -1.5
Total     -1
Pressure 2 10 -8
+ plays are good.

- plays are bad.

If it's a ho-hum play, like a 3 yard gain on first down, then usually nobody will do worse or better than -1 or +1. But give up a 64 yard touchdown (-4) or get a TFL/Sack (+2) and I go higher in either direction.

Pressure: Did the quarterback comfortably hold onto the ball for longer than 3 seconds: -1. Did the QB feel pressure in 3 seconds or less? +1

The ‘pressure’ score was a result of Minnesota playing a lot of max protection, chipping Kerrigan, and us not having Ion or Allen in the line up.

McGee played strong at the line and was rarely moved even against double teams.  Minnesota shifted their line so they could move the double team onto McClain.  When they did so, they weren’t able to handle McGee one on one and had to scrap the idea.

Hood is a guy who can slant and take away gaps.  Here he has to squeeze down on a gap that opens up after McClain gets blown off the line:

What Hood lacks in strength he makes up for in lateral movement.

Linebackers
Player + Total
Spaight 5.5 1 4.5
Brown 5.5 5 0.5
Smith 1.5 1 0.5
Kerrigan 2 0 2
Compton 1.5 4.5 -3: Could have been injury related
Galette 2 1 1
Total     5.5

As great as Compton has been at absorbing blocks for Brown Spaight adds another gear against the run by making plays on his own:

Here Lanier and Brown fire into their gaps and force the play outside while Spaight scrapes over top.  He gets all the way from the far hash to the numbers and tracks down the RB:

Spaight’s number one issue earlier in the season was missed tackles.  If he’s cleaned that up he can be huge for this defense.

Defensive Backs
Player + Total
DJ 8.5 5 3.5: late to fill on a couple of runs
Fuller 0.5 2 -1.5
Norman 4 5 -1
Breeland 0 5 -5
Everett 0 3.5 -3.5
Dhall 0 4 -4
Total     -11.5: Most big plays given up all year
Coverage 10 18.5 -8.5

DB coverage issues were talked about earlier.

DBs Versus Run:

The safeties struggled to fit on Power runs.  Here DHall doesn’t switch gaps with Brown.  Brown is firing backside and Hall needs to scrape over top.  Instead of coming over top of Compton, he’s playing coverage and is late to react:

Here, Compton bumps the LBs over and calls for DJ to come down but he never does.  He just eats a block 8 yards downfield:

Also against the run, DBs had to compensate for rookie Brandon Banks which caused the dominoes to fall:

Banks is playing at nose and Minnesota motioned the WR into the box.  It’s an outside zone look with a cutback designed to open up behind Banks.  Fuller (circled) reacts to this, loses coverage responsibility, and DJ has to abandon his guy to cover Fuller’s man:

Some Good News:  On the field goal drive Norman did what most shutdown Corner’s don’t do and stuck his nose in the box to get the defense off the field.  This was when we were down a score late and had to get the ball back to our offense:

That’s why I love Norman, he does whatever it takes.  Notice the offensive line had zero adjustments to handle a Corner that wanted to play like that.

Predictions From Last Week

  • Minnesota averages under 4.0 ypc
    • 3.3 ypc:  we sold out versus run in the second half and their ypc plummeted.
  • Keenum throws an INT
    • Two.  Thanks DJ.
  • Vikings get one touchdown
    • In the second half you guys.  I meant the second half.

Who played well:  2nd half Norman, 2nd half Brown, McGee, Hood, DJ (obvious) and Spaight.

Gotta Get Better:  Breeland, Everett, DHall–basically the entire secondary.  I guess we could call out Brandon Banks but he’s not supposed to be playing just yet.  Compton reverted back to 2016 Compton on his last couple drives but that could’ve been due to injury.  Lanier: he’s supposed to be our pass rush specialist and we got barely any pressure on the interior.  McClain got blown off the line.

What Does It Mean For New Orleans

  • New Orleans’ offense is second in overall DVOA, first in rushing.
  • We gon die
  • Unless…
  • We slant and move up front.  Screw it lets gamble, I’m fine with giving up a couple of 10-15 yard runs if it means we also get to free up Brown and Spaight for drive-killing TFLs.  In the second half of this game we sold out with slants and fired backers into the intended gap (arrow) and cut back lanes which worked to good effect:

  • Norman and Breeland should get back to form.  The big plays they gave up seemed due to them anticipating instead of reading.  Breeland expected a crossing route, but got a Corner route and Norman expected a Post but got an Out-and-Up.  Fortunately that hasn’t happened before and looks to be an anomaly.
  • Hopefully Nicholson comes back.  He’s listed as a Limited Participant on the latest injury report.
  • Brown needs to hit the right gap.  Now that Compton is out, he wont have a fullback sponging up blocks for him.  I’m not sure what Minnesota did in the first half for him to get confused.  Either he struggles with Power blocking reads or it was just a bad half.
  • Tunnel Screens: Minnesota got us on about three of those.  The main culprit was inside backers not getting over in time.  New Orleans might try that in the red zone to see if we fixed that issue.

 

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